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Coronavirus: Germaphobe Trump urges Americans to act like him

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  • President Donald Trump referenced his germaphobia in a press conference on the coronavirus crisis at the White House Wednesday. 
  • He urged Americans to follow his example and wash their hands, and avoid touching hand rails to avoid catching the illness. 
  • “When somebody sneezes — I mean, I try to bail out as much as possible with the sneezing,” Trump said. 
  • Trump is known to be a germaphobe, who last year ejected a top aide from the Oval Office for sneezing, and is wary of shaking hands with members of the public. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In a Wednesday press conference on the coronavirus crisis, President Donald Trump referenced his germaphobia and told Americans to follow his example if they want to avoid being infected.

The president said that in order to avoid the flu he had always avoided touching hand rails, and would leave the room when someone sneezed — and urged Americans to do the same.

“I do it a lot anyway, as you’ve probably heard. Wash your hands. Stay clean. You don’t have to necessarily grab every hand rail unless you have to,” Trump said.

“I mean, view this as the same as the flu. When somebody sneezes — I mean, I try to bail out as much as possible with the sneezing.”

He went on to tell a cautionary anecdote about being embraced by an acquaintance who then revealed he had the flu. 

“I had a man come up to me a week ago. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, and I said, ‘How are you doing?’ He said, ‘Fine. Fine,'” Trump said.

“He hugs me. I say: ‘Are you well?’ He says: ‘No.’ He says: ‘I have the worst fever and the worst flu,’ and he’s hugging me, kissing me. So I say excuse me and go wash my hands. You want to treat this as you would the flu.”

The president’s germaphobia is longstanding. He insists that people wash their hands before entering the Oval Office, and is wary of shaking hands with members of the public for fear of infection. 

A pet hate is people coughing or sneezing in his presence, and the president last year ejected Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney from the Oval Office for coughing while an interview with ABC News was being filmed. 

Trump has also made light on the condition, claiming in a press conference just before taking office in January 2017 that lurid allegations that he cavorted with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room could not be true because of his germaphobia. 

Wednesday was the first time the president held a press conference focused on the coronavirus, and he had previously mainly confined himself to commenting on the growing crisis on social media.

At the conference, Trump announced that Vice President Mike Pence had been appointed to lead efforts to halt the spread of the illness in the US. Pence has been criticized for his handling of an HIV outbreak in Indiana while he was governor.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday also declined to promise that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable for all Americans, sparking outrage.

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